Fifteen soldiers dead, 53 rescued in Kashmir avalanche

SRINAGAR, India: At least 15 soldiers have been killed and 17 others critically injured after a massive avalanche hit an Indian army training center at a ski resort town in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday.

Senior police officer Qayoom Manhas told The Associated Press the bodies of 15 soldiers have been found and 53 troops have been rescued six hours after the speeding mass of snow and ice struck the center high on a Himalayan slope. 17 of those rescued needed emergency medical care.

Rescue operations are under way at Gulmarg, a ski resort about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, said Col. Vineet Sood, an Indian army spokesman in Srinagar. They are looking for two more soldiers missing and feared buried under the snow.

Sood said the avalanche hit a training center at the army’s High Altitude Warfare School at about 11 a.m. and swept away soldiers during a training session, adding that incessant snowfall and rain are hampering the rescue operations.

Farooq Ahmed, a top police officer in Kashmir, added that casualties could rise.

Frequent rain and heavy snowfall often trigger avalanches and landslides in Kashmir, blocking roads and cutting off tourist resorts like Gulmarg. Gulmarg is also close to the Line of Control, a highly militarized cease-fire line dividing the Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The claim over Kashmir has caused two wars between the archrivals since they became independent from Britain in 1947. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers are posted along either side of the Line of Control. –Reuters

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